When my Dad was in his late sixties, he bungee-d off the New Zealand bridge where the first jump took place.
Someone in the group they were with* asked Mom if she was nervous about Dad being attached to a giant rubber band and dropped from a great height over a river.
Mom shrugged and said, “He’s insured.”
What she could have said was that this is par for the course with Dad. He does things. He’s always done things and he’s not about to let something like age—or rising deductibles—stop him.
When he was younger, he let the Army take him to Japan, decided not to reenlist, taught in the American School in Tokyo, and had some amazing and hilarious adventures that deserve posts of their own, before hitchhiking home. East. I kid you not.
He taught high school back in the states, met Mom, earned his master’s, started a family (hi, there), earned his doctorate, and became a successful clinical psychologist—but decided that he’d rather teach college.
After a couple decades, he decided he was done, turned emeritus, and started taking advantage of the free classes for faculty—botany and voice.
The voice lessons show off his bravery in the face of long odds and adversity. He wanted to sing in his church choir but was burdened with ears of pure tin and an easily amused and shamefully disrespectful family.** It might be noted that he persevered and developed a decent, if overly thoughtful, baritone.
So not everything he’s done has been dangerous, exactly, though some things might seem questionable for a man of his, ah, venerability.
Many of you remember the zip-line adventure from last year, right? The man has no vertigo whatsoever.***
Or, it seems, the ability to slow the heck down. He might say it, but . . . He mentioned a month or so ago that it was probably time he let younger Eagle Scout Masters take over the troops—he couldn’t do the hikes the way he wanted to any more.
Two weeks ago, I called up and asked about their weekend. “Oh,” he said. “They needed someone to take the younger scouts on a bike ride, so I filled in. It wasn’t much—less than fifty miles.”
“Dad,” I asked out of curiosity, “you do remember your eightieth birthday is coming up next month, right?”
“Hey—I was sitting down the whole time,” he said.
“Ask him how he’s sitting now,” said Mom and he laughed.
“Do you have any of that Old Ass Soak I gave you for you birthday?” I asked.^
“No, I ran out of that a long time ago.”
Not many people accelerate after they retire. He’s an amazing—and daunting—example and one of my heroes.
Happy Eightieth Birthday, Dad. I love you.
And I can’t wait to see what you’re planning for your mid-life crisis!
* I think it was a basket-weaving expedition for Mom, but it could have been a retired teacher’s tour group. Mom?
**He would go into the bedroom and shut the door to do his vocal exercises—Weebee, weebee, weebee, weebee, weebee—while my sister and I sat at the bottom of the stairs and howled. Sharp little serpent’s teeth, us.
***That’s Mom on the right. I’m not sure how she feels about heights, but I do know that the only reason she gave for not bungee-jumping is that they write your weight on your hand. I argued after the fact that since the number would be in kilos and everyone in her group was American, it would look like she weighed a lot less and no one would remember the conversion formula, anyway. Not sure she bought that . . .
^I made him a Recovery Kit, with the soak, several packages of Band-Aids, a novel, and various other things that might be useful to a man who keeps getting up every time his falls off his horse—or on a volcano.
^^Thanks to firstmausi for showing me these exist or I’d be frantic right now. The other part of his present is nearly, almost done, I swear.